International study: how to become an ethical leader
The environmental and societal challenges of the 21st century demand big choices – from individuals, governments and businesses. Global uncertainty may be growing during 2020 – but many young people are clear about the future they want to create.
That includes students on ESCP Business School's Bachelor in Management (BSc) programme. ESCP focuses on educating and inspiring tomorrow’s leaders with the principles of ethics, responsibility and sustainability.
We spoke with two student ambassadors on the Bachelor in Management (BSc) about what we should expect from their generation: Nathalia Rocha, 21, originally from Brazil, and Laurent Högl-Roy, 23, who is half-French and half-German and grew up in Switzerland.
Ethics and responsibility
“Everything I do needs to be in accordance with my moral values,” says Nathalia, who will soon start an internship at a social impact company in Helsinki whose partners include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Being responsible means you’re accountable – and if I’m going to be held to account for something, it needs to reflect my values.”
Sounds simple. As the international representative for an NGO supporting children in Brazil and having previously worked on social projects in South Africa, Nathalia is very much living by her values.
But in the complex and pressurised business world, consistent value-based decision-making can become less straightforward. ESCP actively challenges its students to deal with business dilemmas and the final year of the Bachelor in Management (BSc) programme includes a ‘CSR & Business Ethics’ course to prepare them for what lies ahead using real case studies.
“In the past, big corporations have not always been honest and have had some negative impacts for years to come,” says Laurent.
His year group was only the third to start the Bachelor programme and he values its innovative approach. “This Bachelor has a very contemporary point of view, covering these crucial issues to give us the best head start for the future,” he says. “We have classic business classes but we’re also educated, like our slogan says, for ‘Leading in a changing world’.”
Sustainability becomes second nature
You may think the meaning of sustainability is obvious by now. Think again. For the next generation, the concept goes far beyond just trying to be ‘green’ or thinking about the environment.
Sustainability also encompasses human, social and economic dimensions. The circular economy and ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) investing are just two of the more visible aspects.
ESCP's Bachelor promotes sustainable development as fundamental to transforming business – a transformation Laurent says will benefit all parties. “We’ve learned that resources are not endless,” he says. “But it feels like there’s too much questionable ‘greenwashing’. Efficiency will be key to making corporations more sustainable.”
To help its BSc students develop informed views, ESCP invites guest speakers, who have included Kurt Morriesen, Head of Europe, Sustainable Finance & Impact Investing at the United Nations Development Programme.
ESCP's Madrid campus also launched a Green Scholarship for the BSc; prospective students were invited to apply by setting out in PowerPoint how their school could introduce or improve sustainability initiatives.
“Sustainability is about creating something that will last,” says Nathalia. “Why would I want to be part of something that doesn’t leave a legacy?”
Whether the meetings of the future take place face-to-face or via video, the ability to relate to different cultures is becoming crucial. Nor is this only about seeking new clients. Diversity is also a huge topic for organisations looking to enhance their own team dynamics.
Students on ESCP’s BSc programme represent more than 50 nationalities. They have the opportunity to study at three different European campuses and to learn languages in addition to their main courses.
“Through languages you learn how to live with different cultures,” says Laurent, who grew up bilingual in French and German and has studied Spanish and Mandarin at ESCP.
“We work on group projects with people from completely different cultures and this teaches us to understand them better. This flexibility is especially precious. Every situation will look somehow familiar and won’t be intimidating.”
Learning to think local
Familiarity with different cultures does not mean dismissing anything local as parochial. Far from it. The pros and cons of globalisation remain a hot topic. But Laurent and Nathalia believe businesses that look for local solutions have a vital role.
“You can already see it with younger CEOs coming in or start-ups showing they can slow down globalisation a little,” says Laurent, who will do an internship in rail logistics at Deutsche Bahn this summer. “The pandemic shows we might be a bit too interdependent with certain necessary goods, like medication. We need to balance the local and the global.”
Nathalia points to food miles as an example of how more localisation could drive wider progress. “People go to the supermarket and want to buy foods that are not in season,” she says. “I hope people will become more aware of where products come from, as well as the effects on people in supply chains. Unless this changes, businesses will not change – they’ll give people what they want.”
Both students are impressed with how strongly their courses at ESCP focus on sustainability, which encourages open-mindedness about local solutions. "ESCP really focuses on it a lot, which is great," says Nathalia.
Optimism in a long-term outlook
“On the face of it, shareholder value is the dumbest idea in the world.” It’s just over a decade since Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, made this shock declaration about corporate excess.
In 2020, is the trend finally turning away from short-term strategies that seek to maximize profits at all costs? It may be too early to say. But ESCP’s Bachelor in Management (BSc) aims to support a more long-term perspective on prosperity.
Nathalia hopes to see changes in the clothing industry. “With fast fashion, they usually don’t give a living wage to people making the clothes,” she says. “The quality is poor, so people buy things and throw them away.”
“Business should be done for the good of society,” adds Laurent. “Without society there are no customers. My generation can see and build on what has been successful until now but we can also focus on what has been going wrong. I think we have a very interesting future and I'm rather optimistic."
With its emphasis on ethics and sustainable solutions, ESCP's BSc is giving a new wave of decision-makers the tools to turn their visions today into tomorrow's reality.
Ready to be a next generation decision-maker? Find out more about ESCP's Bachelor in Management (BSc), which starts on September 14th for first year students in the 2020/21 intake – with classes on campus and/or online in accordance with national government recommendations.
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